Now that Thanksgiving is over I can officially start the countdown to Christmas – in the next few weeks we’ll be posting both Italian and American recipes that would be a great addition to your Christmas menu, ideal to give as a homemade gift, or perfect for a snowy day.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday -- when I was little, it was a time of year more
anticipated even than our annual trip to Disney World. I remember I loved picking out and decorating our Christmas tree, preparing for the school Christmas pageant, writing up my Christmas list, and planning what to leave for Santa and the reindeer (cookies for Santa, carrots or apples for the reindeer). Now that I’m older I appreciate different aspects of the holiday that are nonetheless equally special – there’s nothing quite Rome's city center decorated with lights, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album, and, most importantly, a healthy dose of holiday baking to get you in the Christmas spirit. Gingerbread, decorated shortbread cookies, peppermint chocolate layer cake, homemade hot chocolate – you name it, I’ll make it and wrap it up and give it to you as a Christmas gift. Because after all, a delicious, homemade gift is the best kind of gift there is, right?
The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is for Cranberry and Pistachio fudge, which is an awesome alternative to baking Christmas cookies. For the non-American readers, fudge is a candy made with butter, sugar, and sometimes chocolate or nuts, that is cooked on the stove and then refrigerated until firm. While many fudge recipes require you to cook the butter and sugar to about 240 degrees using a candy thermometer, this version requires you to only melt and stir the ingredients together and pour the batter in to a pan, no special cooking method or tools required. It is extremely fast and simple to make yet tastes super special and fancy. I tested this recipe out on three friends here in Rome (an Italian, a Canadian, and a Dutch friend) and it went over famously, proving that fudge is universally delicious, no matter where you are from. :)
I used pistachios and cranberries here to make this fudge more Christmas-y (red and green combination) but feel free to use this recipe as a base and stir in any other ingredients you want – chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or even chopped Oreos would be good here. You could also use milk chocolate if you prefer that to semi-sweet. Note that fudge is in general extremely sweet and very rich, so it is best to cut the finished product in to very small squares (or not).
CHOCOLATE, PISTACHIO, AND CRANBERRY FUDGE
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
½ cup pistachios, chopped
Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly with butter. Set a heatproof bowl over a pot with a few inches of simmering water (do not boil). In the bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate, butter, and salt. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fully melted and smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the pistachios and dried cranberries and fold in until evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 3-4 hours. Use the foil to lift the fudge from the pan. Remove and discard the foil. Use a pizza cutter (or a large knife if you don’t have this one hand) to slice the fudge into 64 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.